Ogilvy continues ‘next chapter’ with launch of 900-person global martech ‘center of excellence’

Ogilvy has launched a global, 900-person team tasked with solving clients' problems through marketing technology / Angela Compagnone via Unsplash

Ogilvy chief executive John Seifert announced today (April 26) that the agency has introduced a new martech offering, called the Marketing Technology Center of Excellence.

In an email to all staff, Seifert addressed the need for his agency to respond to the "changes, challenges and opportunities" that have come with the maturing of this digital era. He added: “Our clients are responding to all these changes with their own transformation plans, figuring out how best to innovate and grow within an increasingly digital, social, data-driven and disruptive business environment.”

The "Martech COE", as he called it, is a 900-person unit within Ogilvy with a staff of 30 in New York making up its core team. The unit has training in platforms and marketing tech solutions such as Adobe, SalesForce, Oracle, SiteCore, Acquia/Drupal, Marketo, IBM, iOS, Android and others. He was proud to report the news as the next chapter for the Ogilvy banner, which involved the acquisitions of martech companies such as India-based Verticurl, Pennywise and Who Digital.

The development of the COE was led by Gunther Schumacher, Ogilvy's worldwide chief delivery officer, as the initiative falls under Ogilvy's delivery strategy. He said in a conversation with The Drum: “Everything we do today is technology-dependent, a strategic technology framework. We decided to promote our chief information officer Mike Tidmarsh, who previously helped facilitate the technology partnerships such as the Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce environments.” In Tidmarsh's new role, he's been asked to shape and promote Ogilvy’s technology strategy, with a specific focus on technology platforms and enabling tools, and also drive integration and growth of its technology studios.

In his letter to staff, Seifert added: “The Martech COE will provide local Ogilvy offices and clients with a skilled and highly competitive hub offering, which can work as an end-to-end capability or in a hybrid fashion, complementing existing local teams.”

Ab Gaur, founder of India-based startup Verticurl, which was acquired by the agency in 2013, was named the worldwide head of the Martech COE, where he has responsibility over the strategic vision, growth, partnerships and overall success of the new offering.

Schumacher said Gaur is a "worldly, savvy businessman," and "marketing executive who’s strong in tech."

He added: “One of the biggest challenges in today's world is marketers invested in technology, but they don't invest enough in the understanding of how they have to transform how they work based on the technology environment. So that's our sweet spot. We go in and say we have marketers who can drive your technology platforms for you and with you and we can make them work for you.”

But, Schumacher added, the Martech COE is not a software company, nor is it trying to emulate the likes of Deloitte, Accenture and others looking to take on marketing responsibilities. He said: “We want to be a marketing services company, we will make your marketing investments work for you using the technology investments you need to make. So it's a slightly different angle and it's a very different angle from the consulting company.”

Overall, Schumacher, who has worked with Seifert for the past 20 years, has been excited to give this offering a formal launch. He said: “The thing that almost all of us signed up for is that we believe brands are important and we're passionate about brands, and we love that. We love proving that to our clients and helping them with their business. And this is a statement about business, not just creativity."

This 900-person offering was likened to a ‘fortress’ by Schumacher, except with what he called open land in the back to grow and expand. He also considered the Martech COE the fastest area for growth for the WPP agency. He added: “It's creativity to help brands drive business results and that is the core we're going back to. 30 years ago, you could probably say that making brands matter was more about visual storytelling. Today, making brands matter is about making sure they're well-equipped internally as well to deliver meaningful experiences. It is really fascinating when you can bring in the whole data and tech stuff, but it's still about brands and I think that is very exciting for a lot of us.”

This is the first major announcement from Ogilvy, and one of the first from a WPP agency since the departure of Sir Martin Sorrel two weeks ago. As the industry has pondered over how the holding company survives in the wake of his exit, at least one agency in the network has its eyes on building for the future.

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